Wilson Center Experts
First elected to the House of Commons at the age of 32, Clark was elected Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada four years later. In 1979, he defeated Pierre Trudeau to become the youngest prime minister in Canadian history.His government was defeated on budget measures designed to establish fiscal responsibility and a new system of expenditure control. In its short term in office, that government began the process of privatizing inefficient government enterprises, introduced the first Freedom of Information legislation, embarked on a major program of welcoming thousands of Vietnamese "boat people" as refugees, and rescued American hostages from Iran.Mr. Clark served as foreign minister, and then as minister of constitutional affairs, in the government of Brian Mulroney. He chaired the original Cabinet Committee on the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and was also chairman of the Commonwealth Committee of Foreign Ministers on Southern Africa.In the Wilsonian tradition, Joe Clark was an academic in addition to being a politician. He has earned both a bachelor's and a master's degree in political science from the University of Alberta and in 1993, during a five-year break from politics, he was a visiting scholar in the Canadian studies program at the University of California at Berkeley. Also during this time, he enhanced his international stature as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Cyprus, and he founded Joe Clark and Associates, a successful international business consulting firm. In 1998, he returned to politics, once again leading the Progressive Conservative Party, a position he held until May 2003.